Tuesday 18th January 2022

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

The Church And Mental Illness

December 30, 2016 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

I had a curious reaction when reading the September 26 article in The Washington Post entitled, “My pastor told me it was a sin not to feel joy. Here’s what happens when churches ignore mental illness.” I went back and forth between agreeing with the author and saying to myself, “But it’s not that simple.” The author is Charlotte Donlon, a married woman and mother of two who lives in Alabama and is working on her master’s degree in fine arts.
Donlon begins by calling our attention to a time in her life when she went through “manic episodes” when she was convinced “there was a conspiracy” against her. When she went to her pastor (she does not give us his name or the name of his church, or whether it is a Catholic or Protestant parish), his response was to suggest that they pray together: “He bowed his head and started mumbling a prayer that made no sense to me,” a prayer that floated “off like bubbles blown by a young child.” Donlon tells us she “got up, walked to my car and drove away.”
Donlon’s “mania” eventually subsided, but she became exasperated one day not long afterward when her pastor began a sermon on “joy,” based on John 16:16-24. This is the passage where Jesus assures His followers that their “distress will be turned to joy,” just as a “woman in childbirth feels distress, because her time has come; but when she has borne her child, she does not remember the distress any longer.” Donlon “braced” herself for disappointment when the sermon began, fearing the preacher would not “take this opportunity to discuss things such as depression and anxiety in the Christian life.”
Her fears were well-founded. She writes, “Although much of what he said was good and biblical, he didn’t mention mental illness. Instead, he said that if you aren’t experiencing joy, you should examine your life and repent of any sin that might be blocking it.”
Donlon was troubled that a significant number of the congregation listening to the sermon would be individuals who “experience some form of mental illness” and who would “feel shame and guilt” because of the preacher’s words.
She tells us she glanced at her 13-year-old daughter who is suffering “from depression and anxiety” and wondered if she might be one of them.
Donlon’s point is well-taken. There are well-meaning preachers who give the impression that mental problems are something an individual can escape solely through prayer and meditation upon the “good news” of the Gospels and God’s love for us. But often that is not enough. Psychological problems can be real. There are times when depression cannot be ended by listening to cheery words about looking “on the bright side of life,” by “accentuating the positive,” or “putting your faith in the Lord.”
Good people can find themselves in need of psychiatric care. We don’t know why some do, while others remain happy and stable. The recent brouhaha over Donald Trump’s comments about post-traumatic stress syndrome is a case in point. Trump’s critics jumped on him for using the term “not strong” to describe members of the military who develop this psychological problem. But Trump’s point was sound, even if awkwardly expressed. Trump was speaking to a veterans group that day; they understood what he meant. There were no objections from the members of the audience. They knew he was a layman not using the clinical language used by health-care professionals.
Why, for example, in a platoon of 20 soldiers who experience the same conditions while deployed, might one or two develop PTSD, when the others do not? These soldiers may have been among the most courageous in the platoon while in combat. But something caused them to develop psychological problems, when the others did not. We cannot just tell them to “buck up” and “be a man.” Something more is needed, as in the cases of Charlotte Donlon and her daughter.
Donlon calls upon pastors to keep in mind the studies that show one in 25 adults in the United States will experience “serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder.” She cites studies that indicate that nearly half of the pastors in the United States “never speak to their church in sermons about mental illness,” adding, “I’ve been a Christian for 21 years. None of my pastors have ever mentioned mental illness in a substantive way. I’ve never heard a pastor discuss the role the church should play in caring for those with mental illness. During times that I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a pastor has never reached out to me.” Her hope is that the “church can be a conduit of God’s goodness to those who are sick and scared.”
I have no way or knowing how typical Donlon’s experience is. And I don’t know if it is a fair criticism of modern Catholic priests to charge that they routinely resort to pious happy talk when dealing with someone as troubled as Donlon. But I think we can safely say that it would be a good thing if her words inspire members of the Catholic clergy to be more attentive to the needs of their parishioners beset with psychological issues.
Then when did I find myself at times saying to myself, “It’s not that simple,” while reading Donlon’s article? I may be inferring what Donlon did not imply, but there were times when she seemed to discount the effectiveness of prayer for those beset with psychological issues.
The pastor who invited her to pray with him may have come across as patronizing, but that need not be the case. Prayer and the sacraments are effective tools at troubled times in our lives. When people talk of “finding Jesus,” of “seeing the light,” of “being born again,” they are describing a transformation as profound as the change that occurs under a psychologist’s care. Often this transformation takes place without the involvement of psychologists and psychiatrists. In other cases, the psychologists and psychiatrists are necessary.
The bottom line: Jesus saves, sometimes in collaboration with professionals in the field of mental health, whose mission is the same as everyone else’s: to remake all things in Christ.

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

Pro-Life Group Calls for Removing Fauci After He's Caught Funding Aborted Baby Parts - https://t.co/kqxQXGgoG8

LifeNews.com - The Pro-Life News Source

.

LifeNews.com

Load More...

Vatican and USCCB leave transgender policy texts unpublished

While U.S. bishops have made headlines for releasing policies addressing gender identity and pastoral ministry, guidelines on the subject have been drafted but not published by both the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s doctrinal office, leaving diocesan bishops to…Continue Reading

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Catechism

Today . . .

Alice von Hildebrand . . . Catholic Icon . . . Dead at 98

The readers of The Wanderer have been blessed to read the wisdom and the vast understanding of the Catholic faith that Alice Von Hildebrand shared in her columns with the readers of The Wanderer for over four decades. Her contribution to the Church and to the defense of Catholicism is immeasurable. The countless people she touched in her witness to the Catholic faith will not be fully known until the end of time. Her words are even more valuable today as our…Continue Reading

Brazil to have a statue of Jesus larger than Christ the Redeemer

A statue of Christ is being built in Brazil that will be larger than the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue of Rio de Janeiro. The image, which has been under construction since 2019, will be called Cristo Protector and is being erected on the Cerro de las Antenas, a hill near Encantado in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The project was planned to be completed by the end of 20

Vatican orders forced concelebrations, new restrictions on traditional Mass and sacraments

The document released restricts the traditional celebration of the sacraments, hints at a future withdrawal of permission to celebrate the traditional Mass at all , and issues penalties for priests who will not concelebrate.

Top European court rules all EU countries must recognize same-sex parents

(LifeSiteNews) – The top court of the European Union ruled Tuesday that all EU countries must recognize homosexuals and their legal children as family members regardless of national laws on same-sex parenting or homosexual “marriage.” In a ruling that applies to the entire 27-nation bloc, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) in Luxembourg declared that member countries must allow a same-sex couple to move and reside freely with a child legally recognized as their son or daughter…Continue Reading

Court won’t stop Texas abortion ban, but lets clinics sue

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Friday left in place Texas’ ban on most abortions, though it ruled that clinics in the state can sue over the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. The decision, little more than a week after the court signaled it would roll back abortion rights and possibly overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, was greeted with dismay by abortion rights supporters. They said the outcome, by limiting…Continue Reading

COVID Gloom Shadows World

By JOHN J. METZLER As the New Year brings hope and possibility for a global reset and renewal, the tragic reality remains that COVID-19, with all its deadly variants, continues to plague the planet now fully two years after the malady emerged from Wuhan, China. Thus, despite much justified optimism over wider vaccinations, the pandemic…Continue Reading

Voter ID Requirements Make Sense

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY A young man who looks like a teenager walks into a liquor store and pulls a bottle of cheap whiskey off a shelf.He puts it down at the checkout counter and pulls out his wallet.The clerk at the counter looks at him skeptically. “Can I see your ID?” he asks.“Yes,” says…Continue Reading

The Road To Emmaus

By DONALD DeMARCO The road that stretched from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus, as Luke informs us (Luke 24:13-35), was about seven miles (60 estadia). What transpired in the story of the “Road to Emmaus,” however, has a far richer meaning than the route on which two people, and then a third, traveled. It…Continue Reading

Where Does NATO Enlargement End?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Warsaw Pact dissolved, the breakup of the USSR began. But the dissolution did not stop with the 14 Soviet “republics” declaring their independence of Moscow.Decomposition had only just begun.Transnistria broke away from Moldova. South Ossetia and Abkhazia seceded from Georgia. Chechnya broke…Continue Reading

Our Entire System Of “Sexual Liberation” Depends On The Abortion Industry

By JONATHON VAN MAREN (Editor’s Note: Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as in print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator, and others.) + + (LifeSiteNews) — If…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

The Spirit Of The Lord Is Upon You

FR. ROBERT ALTIER Third Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Neh. 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-101 Cor. 12:12-30Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21 In the second reading today, St. Paul states: “You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.” This truth is of great importance to all of us, but we need to look at the Gospel reading to see what God teaches…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. Are archaeologists still looking for the original pieces of Christ’s Cross? – J.B., Pennsylvania.A. No, the true Cross was found by St. Helena in Jerusalem in the fourth century, and pieces of this holy relic can now be found in many churches and shrines throughout the world. Helena was sent to Jerusalem by her son, the Roman Emperor Constantine,…Continue Reading

Practicing Catholics: The Moral Connection

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK A Catholic acquaintance recounts having been asked, while being interviewed in preparation for hiring by a particular agency concerned with national security, “Have you slept with your friend’s girlfriend or wife?” His impulse was to answer, “No, I’m Catholic,” but only yes or no answers were allowed.That reminded me of an occasion in the Army…Continue Reading

From The Christmas Cycle… An Overlooked But Powerful Reading

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Pope posted this commentary on January 4, 2022 and it is reprinted here with permission. His website is msgrpope.com.) + + There is a Scripture reading proclaimed at the Christmas Liturgy that usually gets overlooked. And yet it should elicit considerable reflection since it is proclaimed at the Christmas Midnight Mass, one of…Continue Reading

Our Lord Gave Himself Entirely

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Second Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Isaiah 62:1-51 Cor. 12:4-11John 2:1-11 In calling Israel into a covenant relationship with Himself, God took His Chosen People into a relationship that is akin to a marriage. This marital relationship is mentioned many times in the Old Testament. Often it is because Israel was like an unfaithful…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Vincent Mary Pallotti (1795-1850)

By DEB PIROCH He lived during a different era . . . the same as the Curé of Ars. He attended a special Jesuit high school, the Collegio Romano where St. Aloysius Gonzaga had been schooled. And like his fellow alumnus, he came from a large family and was called early to religious life.One of ten, as a child Vincent…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… The Blessed Carmelites Of Compiègne

By DEB PIROCH There are those who make the capital error of equating France’s French Revolution with the American one. Bastille Day may have liberated the people from autocracy, but beyond that, the Revolution was vile. While phrases like “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” were bantered about, it was actually only one motto used and it really had nothing whatsoever to…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)